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Thursday, April 28, 2005

Order, Jurisdiction and Magisterum

Is the Pope perhaps being rather clever here? The headline is that he has dispensed with the tiara, but if you read the explanation of the meaning of the papal mitre you might as well say he has revived it. According to the Catholic Encyclopaedia both the Mitre and the Tiara are versions of the Byzantine Camelaucum. As the Popes began to permit the wider use of the Mitre, they distinguished themselves with the addition of (eventually three) golden circlets. These were taken to signify a number of things but most often the threefold nature of the Pope's supremacy over the universal church: teaching governing and sanctifying. This is how John Paul II explained it in his inaugural homily on 22 October 1978, (English) (Italian)

In past centuries, when the Successor of Peter took possession of his See, the triple crown, the tiara, was placed on his head. The last man so crowned was Pope Paul VI in 1963. However, after the solemn rite of coronation he never again used the triple crown, and left to his Successors the freedom to decide about it.

Pope John Paul the First, whose memory is so alive in our hearts, did not wish the triple crown, and today his Successor does not want it. It is not the time, in fact, to return to a rite that, perhaps unjustly, was considered a symbol of the temporal power of the Popes.

Our time invites us, pushes us, obligates us to look to the Lord, and to plunge into a humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.

He who was born of the Virgin Mary, the so-called son of the carpenter, the Son of the living God, as Peter confessed, came to make all of us “a kingdom of priests.”

The Second Vatican Council has reminded us of the mystery of this power, and of the fact that the mission of Christ—Priest, Teaching Prophet, King—continues in the Church. Everyone, the whole people of God has a part in this threefold mission. Perhaps in the past, we put the triple crown on the head of the Pope to express by such a symbol that the whole hierarchical order of the Church of Christ, all of Christ’s “sacred power” exercised in the Church, is nothing else but service, service that has one goal alone: that the whole People of God take part in this threefold mission of Christ, and remain always under the Lord’s power. His power comes not from the powers of this world, but from the heavenly Father and from the mystery of the Cross and of the Resurrection.

So all the Pope has done is reduce the Tiara to its symbolic elements and reconstruct it. It will be interesting to see if an actual mitre corresponding to the one on the arms comes into use. Then the reintegration of aggiornamento and ressourcement with orthodoxy and with each other will be complete! (well, at least sartorially).